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03 October 2014

Introducing Family History

Introduction to Family History

Leslie Drewitz wrote an interesting piece entitled Introducing Genealogy to the Un-inducted. She did a great job sharing small ways she shares genealogy to those who are borderline in their involvement or young.

Her ideas a nice and I wish to expand upon them, so you have a wealth of ways to introduce family history to the "Ugh, dead people crowd."

1. Share a story:

Many people love stories, even if the stories are not about their own family members. I often share the story of my Great-Grandma Evaline Peak and her two Carls. It's a touching story of why I want to meet a dead relative and talk to her about her losses and how she overcame them. When I discuss family history regarding stories with total strangers or professed genealogy haters, they are moved. What they do next depends on what needs to be done in their family.

2. "Today's memories are tomorrow's family history."

If they are still uninterested in long dead people, then invite them to capture and preserve the memories of their parents, grandparents, and children. Many people will gladly do family history if it's about those they know and love.

After photographing this treasure, I no
longer needed to keep it.
3. Suggest it as an organization / de-clutter strategy

With so many folks borderline hoarders or just disorganized in their homes in general, why not link family history and organizing? My two best friends when keeping my house clean are not a rag and a cleaner. They are a camera and a scanner. I often share that if you're having trouble deciding whether to keep something because of it's emotional attachment, photograph it. Then set it aside for two weeks (by the front door is great if you can handle the mess). If you can remember the item because of the photo, toss the item (or donate it, whatever). If you still need the item, find a place to display it. If it's not used or displayed, it's not a treasure so keep the photo instead. After you've decided whether the item stays or goes, take the time to record the memories associated with the item. Then you've cleaned up your house and preserved your personal and family history! Win-win.

4. Death and disaster happen, be prepared

Having seen the loss that occurs because of tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods, I recognize the heartache many people feel not because they lost their possessions. The heartache is generally because they lost the things that matter most, specifically their photo collection and heritage items.

Additionally, many friends and associates have gone through the process of losing a loved one. They grieve for their relative but then are stuck with the task of cleaning out their homes. Which is harder to deal with? The second is far more daunting. Invariably, much is tossed into the trash without a second thought because there's not enough time to handle what wasn't preserved before the person died.

Follow the Boy Scout motto of being prepared. What do you need? A camera and a scanner. Photograph or digitize the family photo collection, vital documents, journals, bibles, and other stuff. Then backup these digital images away from the family home. Eventually, someone can record the pertinent facts and stories associated with all of this digitized information and then create a project to share it. Also remember the adage, "Many hands make light work." Don't do all of these steps alone. But do something to preserve what matters most before its lost forever.

These are just a few of the ways I introduce family history to others. To learn more, read the book, Reimagine Family History, available at

Order Reimagine Family History at

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